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Lung Cancer Screening - You Need to Know

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. The disease has been closely associated with smoking since 1964, when the Surgeon General’s report concluded that tobacco smoke was a cause of lung cancer. Today, smoking is thought to cause up to 80 to 90 percent of the lung cancer cases.

When identified in an early stage, lung cancer has a 90 percent cure rate.

Lung cancer screening refers to strategies used to identify early lung cancers before they cause symptoms. When identified at an early stage, they are more treatable.

The lung cancer screenings offered at Village Pointe Cancer Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center is a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. The word screening refers to the use of medical tests to detect disease in people who are not currently experiencing symptoms. A CT scan of the chest can detect tumors which may not be visible on an X-ray.

Receive a Lung Cancer Screening

Screening studies are recommended to be done in high risk populations. Smokers (both current and former) are an example of high-risk candidates for screening. Additional criteria for lung cancer screening candidates include the following:

  • Patients are 55 to 77 years old.
  • Patients have had a 30 pack-year history (one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years).

Screenings are offered at Nebraska Medicine -Cancer Center at Village Pointe and the cancer center located on the UNMC campus at 42nd and Dewey Street. If you do not have insurance there is a self-pay rate of $200. If you have insurance, most companies are now starting to pay for the screenings. Medicare and Medicaid however have separate, specific requirements for payment. Please see additional information below.

If you have any questions at all or to schedule a screening please call 402-559-4389.

Requirements for Medicaid and Medicare Documentation

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have specific requirements for the documentation of lung cancer screenings. Patients must be seen by a referring provider prior to any screening. If patients do not have a provider reference, appointments are available at Nebraska Medicine – Peggy D. Cowdery Patient Care Center located in the Lied Transplant Center on the 3rd floor. To schedule an appointment please call 402-559-4389.

All providers should reference patient discussions and review the following:

  • Benefits vs. risks of the screenings (including radiation exposure)
  • Follow-up diagnostic testing and annual screenings
  • Potential over-diagnosis or false positive rates
  • Smoking cessation programs and reasons to abstain from smoking

The provider must document the patient’s age and birth date. CMS requires the patient to be 55 to 77 years old and have no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer. The number of years the patient has been a smoker, along with, the average number of cigarette packs smoked must be recorded by the provider. In order to meet the requirements for CMS documentation, the patient must have a 30 pack year history (one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years). The patient must also be a current smoker or have quit in the last 15 years. If the patient has quit smoking, the provider should document the length of time the patient has abstained from smoking.

Prior to the lung cancer screening being ordered, the provider must include his or her provider identification (NPI) and a valid signature in the patient’s electronic health record or on the faxed order.

Lung Cancer Screening Plan

Once a patient has opted into a screening program, it is recommended they receive yearly low-dose CT scan of the chest area until the age 77. Chest X-rays do not qualify as an acceptable screening option.

By participating in the lung cancer screening program at The Nebraska Medical Center, patients have access to a multidisciplinary team of physicians who have specialty training, are skilled in evaluating, diagnosing and treating abnormal lung lesion.

Current smokers should consider entering a smoking cessation program. Receiving yearly scans will not decrease the risk of developing a lung cancer. Screenings should not be considered as an alternative to smoking cessation.

Other conditions may be incidentally found on the CT scan of the chest. In this instance, the patient and their primary care physician will be notified.

What to Expect After a Low-Dose CT Scan Lung Cancer Screening

Not all lung nodules are cancerous. If a lung nodule has been detected it is important to follow through with all scheduled appointments to determine its cause and origin.

If the lung cancer screening CT scan results are negative and no abnormalities are found, expect to receive a phone call within two business days and a letter in the mail within 7 to 10 business days. This letter will also include a recommendation for an annual low-dose CT scan of the chest based on the screening guidelines.

If the lung cancer screening CT scan should show an abnormality, a nurse from The Nebraska Medical Center will call you personally. This nurse will also assist you in scheduling an appointment with a thoracic surgeon at the medical center. This appointment will be scheduled within 7 to 14 days. This appointment will be billed to your insurance.

If the lung cancer screening CT scan shows an abnormality that is not related to the lung or lung nodule, a nurse will contact you by phone and make an appointment with an appropriate specialist.

Lung Cancer Specialists

The lung cancer specialists at The Nebraska Medical Center have specialty training in treating lung cancer patients.

Smoking Cessation Program

Thinking about quitting? Research shows that even people who have smoked for decades will see improvements in their health after they quit. For most people, smoking cessation requires assistance. Programs that address both the psychological and physical addiction to smoking prove to be the most successful at making lasting change. Psychological changes include altering routines and triggers that prompt smoking. The physical addiction is to the nicotine and can require weaning.

For more information, call 800-922-0000 and request the smoking cessation program with Tom Klingeman.

Additional smoking cessation resources

Tobacco Free Nebraska
  • Tobacco Free Nebraska
  • Quit Line: 1.800.QUIT.NOW (784-8669)
  • Sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
Tips From Former Smokers
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